Years ago, Grace Lin wrote down a wish to throw into a bonfire at a publishing retreat. She hoped to create a book that would win either a Newbery or Caldecott award, but immediately felt embarrassed by her own audacity, according to an interview for Publisher’s Weekly.
The author and illustrator has now received both of the prestigious children’s literature awards she once dreamed of. She won a Newberry in 2010 for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
Last Tuesday, she released a companion book to her 2018 Caldecott Honor winner, A Big Mooncake for Little Star. The new picture book is titled A Big Bed For Little Snow and has been described as a sweet and clever “modern myth” about snow by Kirkus Review.
Like many of Lin’s other works, the book features an Asian protagonist.
“When I was younger, I was ashamed or sometimes even angry about being Asian,” Lin told Pine Manor College in a past interview. “There were a lot of things that we did, like eating ginger soup at a baby shower, that I never bothered to learn more about. So now, I research these kinds of things about my heritage. I feel like these things are so important and nice for everyone to know about. That’s why I do many books about Asian culture featuring Asian-American families.”
Lin is responsible for the PBSNewsHour video essay “What to do when you realize classic books from your childhood are racist?” and has delivered a TEDx talk titled “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf.” According to a statement on Lin’s website, she is an advocate for diversity and believes that a book “makes all cultures universal.”
She told Publisher’s Weekly that A Big Bed for Little Snow is an homage to The Snowy Day, the first book she saw featuring a non-white character. As an Asian American girl, she said she felt a sense of kinship with the story’s African American boy simply because neither of them looked like her classmates.
“But […] I have to admit I wanted more,” Lin said. “It was like that was a taste of what I wanted, but not exactly. To be honest, I just really wanted to see myself.”
Lin told Sampan that diverse books are few and highly scrutinized. She said she is a light-skinned Asian who grew up receiving bowl cuts, and has received many complaints for drawing characters with those traits.
According to Sampan, the main character of her latest endeavor, A Big Bed For Little Snow, was modeled by a biracial black and Asian boy.
“People who are diverse are hungry for [diverse] stories,” Lin said. “We need more books because people think Asian Americans are so monolithic. We’ve just started to scratch the surface.”
Lin’s next release will be an original prequel to Disney’s Mulan that incorporates several folk tales, Sampan reports.
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